This is a story from Marsha Lynn Battle Philpot, Kresge Art Fellow.
Marsha is a lifelong Detroiter, new friend of Collision Works, and a beautiful, compassionate, and very honest storyteller. She can talk about the tough stuff and still help everyone feel ok in the process. It’s a rare and wonderful gift and we are grateful to know her. Thanks Marsha, for letting us reprint this excerpt.
Long Live The City Of Trees
There have been many conversations among present and former Highland Parkers expressing the contradiction of our wonderful memories of growing up in the city vs. the reality of the criminality, poverty, decay and craziness that has afflicted our town in the decades since our childhoods. Some of us are deeply ambivalent about HP, and for good reason.
But know who and what we are! We grew up in what was one of the most prosperous and successful cities in the United States. We are products of much of the best that could be granted to us in our lifetime. Because of the automotive industry and many of our parents’ relationship to it, tiny HP was a microcosm of mid-century Americana, and among first cities to reflect a proletarian affluence born of the auto industry, that later came to be called the modern “middle-class”. Is there any wonder that we can be in the far-flung corners of the world, and succeed?
We suffer sometimes from our clear memories of the joys of our upbringing vs. the current status of HP. But let us not forget that we are the repositories of the best that public education of the last century could produce; we are the last generation that experienced a community built on the affluence of industrial society; we are the realized dreams of the people who came before us who had nothing but prayer and work ethic to bequeath to their seed.
We have always felt “different” than those born and raised in the city that surrounded us, and some of us are the most literate, articulate, political, entrepreneurial, musical people born of life in the North. We – especially the generation in this alumni group – are people who experienced, for a brief period, real integration, and, as a result, in our subsequent lives, we have been gifted with the ability to work with and get along people of all races.
We grew up in a lush, green city; rain could barely reach the sidewalks beneath the canopy of the Dutch Elm archways over the streets of our hometown. Although there were many plain, frame houses in the city, the houses, on many of the streets, were big, especially on the “state” streets (California, Rhode Island etc. where I grew up). There is no small irony in the fact that some of these homes that our parents purchased, through much labor and sacrifice, rivaled the giant plantation houses of the South, in the shadows of which many of them once worked and lived….
Read the rest of the story here: http://marshamusic.wordpress.com/we-are-highland-parkers/
The above image of Marsha is taken from a short film of her reading from “Thanks For The View Mr. Mies.” Copyright Stephen McGee Films/ Kresge Arts
Marsha has a One-Woman Show (Literary Performance) coming up Sunday, April 14th, as part of ArtXDetroit and details, including the video of her reading are here. http://www.artxdetroit.com/2013-art-x-detroit/artists/marsha-music/